Technology today is truly amazing. Our lives, from the moment we wake up through the time we go to bed all depend on technologies that our parents’ generation could never have imagined. Sometimes I like to step back and marvel at the bigger picture.
Self-driving cars will one day be the next great example. After the media reported on some recent accidents, everybody is talking about self driving cars. Are they safe? Will new cars have autopilot soon? How will they change things? This is really cool technology, and it’s going to dramatically change our lives.
Self-driving car technology already exists, but it’s limited. The cars can only handle certain conditions, and they still need a human driver standing by to take over if something unexpected happens. As long as cars still need us to pay attention as “backup,” autopilot remains just a toy.
I have no doubt that full fledged self-driving vehicles are coming, but nobody knows how long it will take. My guess is 10-20 years. When that time comes, it will be a massive advance in our transportation capabilities — enough to change the whole fabric of society.
There are so many potential benefits. Parents of teenagers can save a lot of hassle and worry. Robotic chauffeurs will reduce or eliminate the need for parking. In theory, autopilot cars can coordinate efficiently, reducing traffic jams and easing our journeys, wherever we’re going. Most importantly, in the US, automobile accidents kill tens of thousands of people every year.
Despite all the attention recently, robotic cars have not really arrived yet. Yes, Tesla, Uber, Google, Ford, and many other companies are already testing these vehicles on public roads. But recent accidents are a reminder that big changes take time.
As an investor, I’d like to get ahead of big trends like this one. To me, it’s still too soon to make any moves on this trend. It’s just too hard to predict how things will play out. One of my investing mentors once pointed out that there’s no functional difference between bad timing and a bad idea. To profit, you need to be right and have good timing. So for now, I’ll just continue monitoring the situation.
Twenty years ago, the internet was young and few people had a high speed connection. Now, intelligent robots bristling with sensors are hitting the streets. Where will be be in the 2030s? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.